The Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil:

From darkness into light; from death into life.

What is the Easter Vigil?

  • The Easter Vigil is the culmination of the three day observance of the cross and resurrection and the first celebration of Easter.
  • The liturgy has origins at least as old as the 3rd century when the church gathered with those who were to be baptized and spent the night in vigil and prayer (Our liturgy is about 1’20”).
  • The liturgy is a dramatic experience of our passage from sin and death into grace and life.

What happened this day?

  • The followers of Jesus observed the Sabbath (from sunset Friday to Sunset Saturday).
  • At first light on Sunday some women came to the tomb and found it empty.
  • A heavenly messenger told them that Jesus had been raised from the dead.
  • Later that day Jesus appeared to his followers.

What does the church do at the Easter Vigil?

  • The Vigil proceeds in four great acts: The service of light; the service of the word; the service of baptism; the service of Holy Communion.
  • The service is followed by a paty as we break our Lenten fast.  (If you have given up anything for Lent, you are invited to bring it for the feast that follows the service.)

The Service of Light

  • The community gathers outdoors where a fire has been built.
  • The new fire is blessed (In the medieval era people put out their hearth fires on Good Friday and took coals from the Vigil fire home to restart them).
  • A large candle, called the Paschal Candle, symbolizing Christ the light of the world, is blessed and lit from the new fire.
  • The community processes into the dark church following the light of the one candle singing “The light of Christ / Thanks be to God.”
  • The candles of all are lit as a hymn is sung celebrating God’s gift of light.

The Service of the Word

  • The candles of the community are extinguished as we sit and listen to seven great salvation stories from the scripture, including the story of creation, Noah, the exodus, Passover and the raising of the dry bones.
  • Each reading is followed by a moment of reflection and prayer.

The Service of Baptism

  • The community gathers around the baptismal font singing “Wade in the Water”.
  • The font is filled with water and blessed.
  • If there are candidates for baptism they are questioned and baptized.
  • The candles of all are relighted – as we are given light from the paschal candle in baptism.
  • The whole community is led through a renewal of their baptismal vows.